Development of New Media
In China, the Internet is widely used in fields such as news transmission, e-governance, e-commerce and public services. The communication capability of the Internet is increasing, making it an important channel to access news and know about the world.
Emerging after traditional media such as newspapers and periodicals, news agencies, radio and television, new media spreads information via the Internet. As an outcome of improving communication technology, new media, by efficiently integrating communication carriers such as text, pictures, sound and images, is making itself into a new milestone in media development with its tremendous information load capacity and advantages in digital technology, transmission ability across time and space, convenience in copy and retrieval, and interactivity. It has become the most active and influential media with the greatest development potential in China.
Development history of China’s new media
Since China’s formal access to the Internet in April 1994, China’s new media have experienced the phases of inception, high-speed development and stable growth. In January 1995 China Scholars Abroad witnessed the beginning of the digitalization of Chinese periodicals. In December 1996 CCTV programs were put online, which marked the launching of Chinese broadcasting media online. The year 1997 witnessed some state-level media such as People’s Daily, and Xinhua News Agency begin to build their websites to promote news transmission online, and the establishing of commercial websites such as netease.com, srsnet.com (predecessor of sina.com) and sohu.com. Since 1999 the number of Chinese netizens has been increasing rapidly, and commercial websites have been listed overseas, which further fanned the Chinese people’s enthusiasm for China’s new media. Entering the 21st century, with further and sweeping use of the Internet, information transmission is becoming more diversified, and the development of new media is becoming more standardized, with its role of news transmission more prominent. In July 2004 the multimedia message of the first mobile news — China Women’s News — came out. Since 2007 China’s new media have gradually formed their own pattern — their subscribers have been increasing in number; reading news online and posting comments has become popular; and forums, blogs and microblogs are booming. In the past two years mobile news apps have come to the fore and become the choice for subscribers to access news from the Internet. The Research Report for the 2013 China Mobile Phone News Apps Market released by Iimedia Research on March 3, 2014 showed that by the end of 2013 China’s news app subscribers totaled 344 million, with a penetration rate of 60.4% among mobile phone users.
With 20 years of development, China’s new media, in various forms such as text message, website, web portal, news app, microblog, instant messaging and we-media writing, is becoming more professional and Internet-based in news transmission. Netizens involved, technologies applied, news release amount, social influence and industry participation have all come close to or topped the world levels, giving birth to some national new media brands with international competitiveness.
By the end of June 2014 the number of Chinese netizens added up to 632 million, among whom 527 million were mobile phone users, with an Internet penetration rate of 46.9%. More new media are turning to mobile terminals, and among all Internet-based devices, the rate of mobile phone use is 83.4%, overtaking PCs for the first time. The mobile Internet is driving the development of the whole Internet. Among all app use by Chinese netizens, news app subscribers take up about 80% with a readership of over 500 million. Popular websites such as xinhuanet.com, people.com.cn, sina.com.cn and sohu.com post over 10,000 pieces of news, and get over 100 million or even over one billion of page views every day. New media have now evolved to become an important part of Chinese journalism.
Structure of China’s new media
In China today almost all traditional media and news agencies are using their own advantages in resources and brands to promote online news transmission to meet the people’s need for information. Some comprehensive information service websites such as xinhuanet.com, people.com.cn and cntv.cn have come into being, extending the reach of authoritative news and information as well as widening the space for development of traditional media. According to statistics from IResearch, from June 30 to July 6, 2014 the daily visitors to news websites totaled 44,738,000, and the time spent on web pages was 22.05 million hours. People.com.cn, an online news platform of People’s Daily has been listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and become the first news website listed on China’s A share market and the first media enterprise wholly listed on the A share market.
The new Internet apps and services such as social networking services are popular and in full swing, instilling vigor into the development of China’s new media. Microblog and Wechat are the most widely used and influential new media applications, meeting users’ reading requirements in a mobile, convenient and timely manner. By the end of June 2014 there were 275 million microblog users, and 1.2 billion microblog accounts in China, with the use rate reaching 43.6%, among whom 189 million were mobile phone users, with the use rate reaching 35.8%. By the end of July 2014 mobile instant messaging user accounts exceeded one billion, with Wechat user accounts over 800 million and the latest monthly active users surpassing 438 million, and covering over 200 countries and regions. Wechat has over 20 language versions. The Wechat platform has over 5.8 million public accounts.
China’s new media are rapidly integrating with mobile devices and social media. They have given birth to micro-governance, micro film and micro video, which constitute the new micro-age phenomenon in China’s Internet development. With the development of the mobile Internet, news websites have successively launched terminal-friendly apps such as mobile news and mobile TV, forming an omni-media transmission pattern. Mobile news apps are becoming new platforms for the public to access news.
Overall situation and appraisal of China’s new media
Over the past few years China has been enhancing the strength of new media. With the rapid popularization of new media worldwide and their uneven development trend, China’s new media are taking on their own national characteristics in development mode and cultural traits. Technology innovation, big data and cloud computing are widely applied in new media.
Diversified new media forms are becoming attractive news and information sources for netizens, with ample contents and applications. Each netizen is an information receiver, and also a poster and disseminator. Photos or microblogs posted by netizens may be the sources of hot news. Internet technologies are making new media reports more fascinating, and the popularization of wearable devices will facilitate netizens’ use of new media.
Boasting unique advantages in satisfying the people’s demand for information, new media are also becoming an important force for carrying forward mainstream values, boosting economic development and bringing about social harmony.
New media are an important engine promoting economic structural adjustment and transforming the economic development mode. New media-related industries have been listed as new strategic industries in China’s low carbon economy initiatives. According to the 2014 Report on the Development of China’s Media Industry, in 2013 China’s media industry was worth 890.24 billion yuan, an increase of 16.2% over the previous year, and the contribution rate of the mobile Internet to the media industry was 30.3%.
New media is serving as a new bridge and bond for communication between the Chinese government and its people. Over the past few years, the Chinese government has committed itself to building service-oriented government through new media, and the central and local governments are encouraged to set up government websites and open microblog accounts. Verified government accounts on people.com.cn, xinhuanet.com, sina.com.cn and qq.com add up to 258,737, and such accounts on Wechat exceed 6,000. Online politics and supervision are changing China’s political landscape. Innovative political endeavors such as the new institutions of web spokesman and online press conference are emerging. More and more people are expressing views and suggestions on government work via new media to participate in the management of public affairs.
New media actively uses its strength to gather positive energy and realize the Chinese Dream. Over the past few years, “The Most Beautiful Mother” and “The Most Beautiful Teacher” have been publicized via new media, stirring up a strong wave of positive energy throughout society. During the Spring Festival in 2014, several websites jointly initiated a charity activity of “offering you a free ride home,” benefiting about 100,000 people.
New media are bringing significant changes to Chinese people’s work, study and life, ensuring easy access to information about medical care, education, leisure and entertainment, and business, and changing both interpersonal relationships and the relationship between the individual and society. More and more people start their businesses via the Internet to realize their own dreams.
Laws and regulations, basic policies and practice concerning China’s new media
In the largest developing country in the world, China’s new media is thriving and has achieved noteworthy progress.
Like most countries, including developed ones, China manages new media in accordance with the law. The relevant Chinese laws are open and transparent, to maintain the order of online information transmission, safeguard online information security and promote the prosperous development of new media. Since 1994 China has promulgated a series of laws and regulations, and department rules concerning norms governing information transmission, including the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Preserving Internet Security, Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Strengthening Network Information Protection, Regulations on Telecommunications, Administrative Measures on Internet Information Services, Administrative Measures on Internet News Information Services, Administrative Provisions for the Internet Audio-Video Program Services, Provisions Regulating Internet Information Services, and Provisions on Protecting the Personal Information of Telecommunications and Internet Users, to put the management, application and service of new media within a legal framework. In accordance with these laws and regulations, China protects freedom of speech online and Internet intellectual property, and prohibits the spreading of illegal information and engaging in illegal and criminal activities via the Internet.
The Chinese government encourages and supports the development of online journalism, having formulated preferential policies and invested a great deal of capital into new media infrastructure construction, introducing and studying new media technologies, committing itself to creating a healthy and well-organized environment for new media development, and building a more open, secure, and dependable new media to better meet users’ demands. China’s new media industry is expanding, and news apps, BBS platforms, blogs, social networking services and video sharing apps are rapidly developing to meet the people’s need for news and information, posting comments and communication. Netizens are actively involved in spreading online information and content creation, greatly enriching the online information contents. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the watchdog role of new media, urging governments at all levels to investigate and solve problems reported on the Internet and release their findings. At present, over 97% of the central government departments, all governments at provincial level and over 98% governments at prefectural level have set up portal websites to facilitate communication with the public and provide better service for the people.
China’s online information freedom and security
New media ensures the citizens more channels to exercise their rights to know, to participate, to express and to supervise — they can make comments and air opinions in various ways online. Online communication and interaction have become distinctive features of new media development. The number of news comments, BBS posts and blog articles is enormous. The websites offer services for netizens to make comments, and over 80% of them have BBS platforms. By the end of June 2014 there were millions of forums, 444 million bloggers and personal webpage users, and 275 million microblog users. According to statistics from the ten most influential websites, daily BBS posts and news comments top three million.
Though the new media facilitate people’s communication and interaction, the emergence of fake news, pornography and privacy leaks harms the Internet order and the interests of society. In order to fully release the bonus of the free flow of information, the hidden dangers to information security must be eliminated, which has become the common consensus of all sectors of society. Equal attention should be given to both the free and safe flow of information. If Internet security cannot be secured, information flow will be disrupted and the sound development and effective use of new media will be hard to realize. China supports the principle of the free and safe flow of information via new media, and safeguards the basic rights of citizens to freedom of speech, which is at an unprecedented level now, greatly promoting political culture and social progress. In exercising their freedom and rights, citizens should also fulfill their legal obligations to avoid damaging the national and social interests, as well as the legitimate interests and rights of other citizens.
The Chinese government has always emphasized the safeguarding of Internet security to create a sound environment for new media development. It strengthens its management of new media in accordance with the law and in a scientific way, to bring about a sound environment for Internet information transmission under the supervision of laws, industry and society, containing, blocking and clearing away harmful and illegal information in accordance with the law. In recent years, the Chinese government has launched campaigns to clean up the Internet to crack down on online porn, IPR infringement and piracy, and purify Internet space. The Chinese government attaches importance to the security of websites, actively carrying out special campaigns to prevent the forming of and sever the cyber-hacking industry chain.